My advice? Get down and dirty


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14 May 2024
Two P38s, two dramatically different sale prices : credit: © JLR
Tom finds the usual auction patterns have changed recently

I’d like to think I have a decent grasp on the market for Land Rovers of all ages, but this month I must admit I’ve been baffled. I’ve been losing badly in the ‘guess the value’ game I play in my head while watching auctions, and it’s been quite unnerving.

It started with a classic sale where a lovely-looking early three-door Discovery failed to meet its reserve of £4000 and a very tidy refurbished Series III Lightweight sold for £1800 below its lower estimate of £8000. I had to exercise considerable restraint, despite going into the sale with no intention to buy either of them as I hadn’t done enough research to raise the bidding paddle. I’ve learned the hard way that there’s usually a reason for cars being cheap, but after retrospectively doing a little digging, these seemed like genuine bargains. Nice Lightweights in particular seem to be selling for five figures on other sites these days.

At the other end of the scale were a couple of middle-aged Range Rovers which seemed to do unusually well in the sale. One, a P38, tickled my fancy and I put in a £2500 proxy bid. I really liked the car – one of the very last 2002 registered Vogues in Bonatti Grey with cream leather and showing just 72,000 miles, with a file of paperwork to back it up.

Everything on the car seemed to work, but the auction’s mechanical report mentioned an ABS warning light. I hoped this might be enough to throw some buyers off the scent as, on most cars, this could be an expensive nightmare to sort out. The P38 has the easiest and cheapest fix of all though – you simply drive it a few feet until the electronics have run a check and calibrated themselves, whereupon the light magically extinguishes itself.

With that geeky knowledge banked, my bid represented a level where I would be happy to win the car, but I wasn’t going to empty out the piggy bank and pay all the money to own it. The hammer fell at £4750 plus the fees, and I can only assume it was bought by a dealer who will give it a machine polish and slap on a £2000 mark-up soon.

Perhaps an L322 might buck the trend?

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The grey theme continued with an L322 Range Rover which was identical to the P38 in what posher adverts have started calling its ‘colourway’, but eight years younger. The 3.6 TDV8 looked lovely and also had a mileage in the low 70s. I threw a £4500 proxy bid at the website and was thinking I might be lucky, so raised an eyebrow when the auctioneer banged the hammer at £9800, especially when a newer shape L405 Range Rover went for £100 less a few lots later.

I was discussing this phenomenon with a friend of mine who likes to dabble with a bit of trading and he spotted another P38 at the auction. It wasn’t quite so desirable, not least because the odometer had clicked into six figures and the auction checklist mentioned a misfire. It was a less interesting shade of blue too, had some duct tape holding the bumpers together and the rear cabin had crude-looking screens wired to a PS1 games console. He reckoned it was worth putting a £500 proxy on it, just to have another go on Ridge Racer in the back. He wasn’t really expecting to win though, so he swallowed hard when he got an email with an invoice attached. I’m going to witness it coming off the low loader to see how bad a £500 Range Rover is.

I had assumed the days of being able to buy a running, MoT’d Land Rover for £500 were over, when I heard of another bargain purchase by a friend in the trade. This one was a Freelander 2, which needed a new steering rack. The owner winced at the cost of replacement and the long waiting time for new parts, so jumped at his £500 offer. My chum sourced a good used part, got out his socket set and is now looking quite smug with himself.

I’ve always liked the Freelander 2 and they generally seem to be reliable too. So the thought of them being below a grand spurred me on to dig around. The cheapest I could find was a 2.2 diesel HSE with 190,500 miles and a short MoT, but 11 service receipts. It sold for £825, and with a bit of fettling will probably make a nice car.

My month of observation has clearly taught me that the cars I like are always too expensive, because everyone else seems to like them too. If you want the bargains, be prepared to get your hands dirty and fix stuff which other buyers think sounds like a hassle.


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